Projet Volterra


Fragmenta Londiniensia Anteiustiniana

by Simon Corcoran and Benet Salway


Introduction to the Fragmenta Londiniensia Anteiustiniana

The Fragmenta Londiniensia comprise 17 parchment fragments (some themselves almost split in two) recovered from a binding, although no information survives as to when, where or from what type of manuscript or printed book. The owner kindly allowed the Volterra team to take temporary custody of the fragments in November 2009, which a view to us trying to identify what they are and to publish the results of our investigations.

Although not all the fragments are legible on both sides, the words and part-words that have so far been identified are all consistent with this being a late Roman legal work in codex form. The script is a clear but small uncial, with several distinct features. There are similarities to the famous sixth-century Codex Florentinus of the Digest, but the closest matches are probably the Leiden Pauli Sententiae and the Antinoopolis Georgics, both often dated as early as the fourth century. The text utilizes a wide variety of abbreviations typical of pre-Justinianic legal manuscripts. We suggest a dating for the London Fragments of AD400-500, but this may change as our research progresses. Further, there are numerous interlinear annotations and marks, which have proved hard to read, but include both Greek glosses to Latin words and Greek numeration. Deciphering these fully should provide the key to discovering how, and over what period, the manuscript may have been used.

The most striking fragment is that which contains a rubricated title, which is both written in red ink and preceded by the rubric sign (a crossed R). It is also written in a different script from the rest of the fragments, being in rustic capitals, and reads: 'PRESCR. . .' This should be the opening of a title on some form of prescription, perhaps praescriptio longi temporis, or maybe praescriptio rei iudicatae. The line below the title contains the end of the heading to an imperial rescript, which would have read: '[IMP. <?>] AUG. IUL. PRAESENTI.'

FLA praescriptio

[Orig. size approx. 4.5 x 2 cm]

One complete and five partial headings to imperial constitutions have so far been identified, supplying, in addition to Julius Praesens, the names of three other addressees, and explicitly attesting four emperors: Antoninus (i.e. Caracalla, sole rule AD211-217), Gordian III (AD238-244), Philip (AD244-249), and his son Philip junior, who was associated in power with his father.

In addition to the headings, there may be as many as six partial subscripts to constitutions, which, when complete, would have given details of the date (and occasionally place) of either signing by the emperor or posting up in public. However, only one date can be reconstructed in full with reasonable certainty (30 May 244), plus three other consular years (239 and probably both 241 and 245).

In four cases a subscript is immediately followed on the next line by a heading, in two of these the heading being outset into the margin. Together with the presence of the title rubric with a heading immediately below, all this suggests that we are dealing with a work that consisted primarily or even solely of imperial constitutions arranged under titles. Indeed, it is possible to infer that the constitutions were placed in chronological order.

Searching for key words and letter combinations in the Volterra I database has turned up three matches between the London fragments and the Justinian Code, all from the same title: CJ VII.62.3 (Gordian), 4 (Philip and his son) and 7 (Diocletian and the tetrarchs). This has also helped in identifying or confirming three joins between pairs of fragments. However, whereas in the Justinian Code two of the texts are adjacent, the first parallel text in the fragments is followed by a previously unattested constitution of Gordian, while the second is similarly preceded by another of Philip, suggesting that the London fragments come from a much fuller work.

The third-century material in the Justinian Code derives exclusively from two earlier codes of imperial constitutions compiled in the 290s, the Codex Gregorianus and Codex Hermogenianus, for neither of which are there direct manuscript witnesses. Such evidence as survives suggests that the Gregorian Code contained constitutions from Hadrian down to c.291, while the Hermogenian comprised principally rescripts of 293-4. A priori, therefore, we would assume that CJ VII.62.3-4 came from the Gregorian Code and VII.62.7 from the Hermogenian. However, both codes appear to have contained material from the 290s that does not fit any neat chronological divide between them. Since there is no evidence that the sequences of the two codes were integrated before the creation of the first edition of the Justinian Code (528-9), the simplest solution to identifying the presence of these constitutions together in the London fragments is to suppose that the Gregorian Code contained some First Tetrarchy rescripts.

Our initial assessment, therefore, is that we have here a late Roman legal work, comprising solely imperial rescripts of third-century emperors chronologically arranged under thematic titles. Thus we are left with the conclusion that the London fragments, while meagre, are nonetheless the sole surviving manuscript remains of the otherwise lost Gregorian Code.

A press release announcing the identification of the London Fragments as part of the Gregorian Code was issued by UCL on 27 January 2010, with reports carried in various newspapers and repeated across the internet. Simon Corcoran and Benet Salway gave preliminary presentations about the Fragments in the Dept. of History at UCL (March 2010) and then in the Dept. of Classics and Ancient History at the University of Manchester (May 2010). There was a workshop on the fragments held as part of the Volterra II Colloquium 3 (July 2010, Dept. of History, UCL). Two further presentations were given at manuscript or palaeography seminars organized by the Institute of English Studies, Senate House, London (October and December 2010). Corcoran gave a plenary lecture on the fragments at "Shifting Frontiers IX", State Penn (June 2011) and again at the Gillian Clark celebration day in Bristol (August 2011). Corcoran and Salway also gave twin papers at the 65th SIHDA session in Liège (Sept. 2011).

The Greek Fragments

Seventeen Greek parchment fragments are associated with the FLA, but this seems no more than the chance of being similarly recovered from bindings in the recent past, rather than representing a shared ancient or mediaeval provenance. All but one of the fragments are Biblical. The remaining fragment, previously unidentified, has now been successfully attributed by Simon Corcoran to the lost Greek original of a pseudo-Apostolic "Church Order" work, the Testamentum Domini.


S. Ammirati, 'Per una storia del libro latino antico: osservazioni paleografiche, bibliologiche e codicologiche sui manoscritti latini di argomento legale dalle origini alla tarda antichità,' Journal of Juristic Papyrology 40 (2010) pp. 55-110
G.G. Archi et al. (eds.), Pauli Sententiarum: Fragmentum Leidense (Cod. Leid. B.P.L. 2589) (Studia Gaiana 4; Leiden, 1956)
S. Corcoran, The Empire of the Tetrarchs (rev. ed.; Oxford, 2000)
S. Corcoran, 'Codex Gregorianus Redivivus?', Revue internationale des droits de l'antiquité 3rd ser. 58 (2011) p. 448 [abstract of the presentation made at the 65th SIHDA Conference, Liège, September 2011]
S. Corcoran and B. Salway, 'A lost law-code rediscovered? The Fragmenta Londiniensia Anteiustiniana', Zeitschrift der Savigny Stiftung für Rechtsgeschichte: romanistische Abteilung 127 (2010) pp. 677-678
S. Corcoran and B. Salway, 'Fragmenta Londiniensia Anteiustiniana: preliminary observations,' Roman Legal Tradition 8 (2012) pp. 63-83
B. Salway, 'Fragmenta Londiniensia Anteiustiniana', Revue internationale des droits de l'antiquité 3rd ser. 58 (2011) p. 448 [abstract of the presentation made at the 65th SIHDA Conference, Liège, September 2011]
R. Seider, Paläographie der lateinischen Papyri II, 2 vols. (Stuttgart, 1978-1981)
M.U. Sperandio, Codex Gregorianus: origini e vicende (Naples, 2005)

Brief magazine notices:
World Archaeology Magazine (April/May 2010) p. 9
Le monde de la Bible 193 (June-August 2010) p. 42

Fragmenta Londiniensia Anteiustiniana

The text of the Fragmenta will be added at a later date, once the study of the manuscript fragments is complete.


This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.